Statement by James George Jatras Regarding the Sequestration of His Grace, Bishop ARTEMIJE of Ras and Prizren and Kosovo and Metohija, and Pressure on Monastics and Laypersons Loyal to Him
February 23, 2010
Since the suspension of Vladika ARTEMIJE from administration of his Eparchy the claim has been advanced that His Grace retains his full dignity as Bishop Ras and Prizren and Kosovo and Metohija and that he is only barred from direct control over the affairs of his Diocese. Supposedly, he is otherwise a free man and can do all else appropriate to his status. He can go anywhere and talk to anyone, without restriction, supervision, or need for permission.
However, circumstances since Vladika Artemije's suspension call that claim into serious question. Nothing in maintaining silence over matters for investigation requires Vladika Artemije to remain within his residence in Gracanica Monastery; to be unable to meet with his spiritual children within his Eparchy and elsewhere; to visit his doctor in Belgrade (His Grace is not a young man); or to be unable to speak with the media, at least about topics unrelated to the current controversy.
Yet we see him doing none of these things. In fact, we do not see him at all. It seems the only glimpse of Vladika Artemije has been a single photo posted on the website established on the purported "new" Eparchy website following the apparent seizure of His Grace's site. (In the same vein, what justifies seizure and shutdown of Vladika Artemije's site, if not to silence and isolate him?). That photo shows Vladika Artemije serving in church together with suffragan Bishop Teodosije, known to be aligned with those seeking to justify Vladika Artemije's suspension. The evident purpose of the photo is to demonstrate that Vladika Artemije is well and apparently content with his current status. Viewing the photo one cannot escape the sense one has from a photo of a kidnap victim sent to his family by his captors to show that he is still in good health. The only way to dispel the sense that Vladika Artemije effectively is sequestered as a virtual prisoner is for him to emerge from Gracanica and travel as he pleases, both within his Eparchy and outside it, including to Belgrade; and to meet with Serbian and foreign media to give a direct, uncensored account of his circumstances and wellbeing, and to speak his mind on issues of importance to his endangered flock. This must be permitted without further delay.
Inseparable from the issue of Vladika Artemije's evidently forced isolation are highly disturbing reports that monastics and laypersons loyal to him are being pressured to abandon or disown him as the price for their daily subsistence. It must be kept in mind that since Vladika Artemije's suspension all the financial resources of the Eparchy are in the hands of those responsible for his suspension. This means that monastics and laypersons, both at Gracanica and at other establishments in the Eparchy, who have their daily rations from the monastic refectories and other customary means of support, now find themselves entirely under the control of persons they have reason to believe are unfriendly towards their beloved Archpastor. There have been disturbing reports of individuals loyal to Vladika Artemije being told, in so many words, that they will be fed only if they consent to morally disown His Grace and take sides with the “new order” in the Eparchy. The only alternatives to submission are to rely on the meagre private resources of a few individuals, which are rapidly being depleted; or to physically depart from the Eparchy. It is clear that what is at work is a campaign of attrition against Vladika Artemije's most loyal supporters to draw them away, either morally or physically, and so isolate him further. This obscene un-Christian campaign must stop at once.
Once again, in accordance with the Open Appeal ([LINK]) for the Reinstatement of Vladika Artemije, I ask that he be returned to effective control over his Eparchy without delay.